Tag Archives: elk

Washington Game Wardens Work Through Night To Save Bull Elk

A pair of Washington game wardens pulled an extra shift this past weekend, and it had nothing to do with the very busy rifle deer opener.

Rather, it was to untangle an elk — then make sure the heavily sedated animal didn’t die afterwards.


It all started Saturday afternoon when Sgt. Danyl Klump got a text from a Wenatchee-area landowner that a bull had wrapped itself in barbed wire up in the Stemilt Basin, so he tasked Officers Blake Tucker and Will Smith, who had been on duty since that morning, with freeing the animal.

“It had gone through a fence, ripped out a handful of fence posts and wrapped around a tree,” says Klump.

It’s believed it could have been tangled up for as many as two days.

“The timing was horrible, but you can’t leave a bull elk like that,” Klump says.

Tucker and Smith arrived on the scene and drugged the seven-point — “You don’t want a massive bull elk thrashing its antlers” — and were able to get the wire off by 9 p.m., when they texted their boss that they should clear the incident in 45 minutes.

So Klump was a little surprised to wake up early Sunday morning and see they’d just sent him a follow-up email that they were still with the elk.


It had gone into heavy sedation, requiring Tucker and Smith to stay with it.

“They maintained its breathing through the night. They used logs and sticks to prop it up,” Klump said.

If they hadn’t, its lungs could have been crushed and collapsed, killing it, he says.

“When you sedate something, you take responsibility for it,” Klump says.

He says that sometimes very large bears will react the same way, even when the recommended dosages are followed.

Smith and Tucker took turns being with the elk and warming up in their rigs as coyotes howled through the night.

“None of us expected it to be that long into the evening,” says Klump.

He says that at one point the officers thought they’d lost the elk. The bull exhaled and didn’t inhale for a long while, but then took a shallow breath.


As the elk came out of it, the officers helped it stand, then gave it a slap to get moving.

“It slowly walked off, then ate some grass,” says Klump.

It was a successful end to a workday that had begun the morning before.

“They had basically a 23-hour shift,” he says.

For the sergeant the rescue fit right into part of WDFW’s mission — “(to) preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems …” — even if it came at the most inopportune moment, the opening weekend of modern firearm deer season, the most popular single hunt in the state.

“Often we get the call too late and the animal dies or the coyotes get it,” Klump says.

Not this time, thanks to two dedicated public — and wildlife — servants.

“They went way above and beyond,” he says of Smith and Tucker. “I’m very proud of these guys.”

Editor’s note: Our apologies for misspelling the last name of Sgt. Dan Klump in the initial version of this blog.

Here Are Oregon’s Rules For Salvaging Roadkilled Deer, Elk


The Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted administrative rules for the salvage of roadkilled deer and elk during its meeting in Klamath Falls today. The new rules are due to the passage of SB 372 by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature and take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.


Highlights of the new rules include:

·        Deer and elk accidentally stuck by a vehicle may be salvaged for consumption only. Intentionally hitting a deer or elk in order to salvage it remains unlawful.

·        Anyone who salvages a roadkilled deer or elk must complete a free online permit within 24 hours of salvaging the animal and provide information including their name, contact info, where and when salvage occurred, species and gender of animal salvaged, and if they were driver that struck animal.

·        Antlers and head of all salvaged animals will need to be surrendered to an ODFW office within 5 business days of taking possession of the carcass. This rule will meet the requirements of SB 372 and will contribute to ODFW’s surveillance program for Chronic Wasting Disease.

·        The entire carcass of the animal including gut piles must be removed from the road and road right of way during the salvage.

·        In cases where a deer or elk is struck, injured and then put down to alleviate suffering, only the driver of the vehicle that struck the animal may salvage the carcass and law enforcement must be immediately notified. (This is a requirement per Oregon Revised Statute 498.016 and SB 372.)

·        Any person who salvages a deer or elk will consume the meat at their own risk. ODFW/OSP will not perform game meat inspections for any deer or elk salvaged under these rules.

·        Sale of any part of the salvaged animal is prohibited, but transfer to another person will be allowed with a written record similar to transferring game meat. 

·        The state of Oregon is not liable for any loss or damage arising from the recovery, possession, use, transport or consumption of deer or elk salvaged.


The Commission also approved the purchase of 214 acres of property adjacent to the Klamath Wildlife Area and the 560-acre Edmunds Well property near the Summer Lake Wildlife Area.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is a joint meeting with Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission on Nov. 1 in Vancouver, Wash.

Oregon Fish And Wildlife Commission Set To Adopt Road-kill Salvage Rules


The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Friday, Oct. 12 in Klamath Falls at the Running Y Ranch Ponderosa Room, 500 Running Y Road.

The meeting starts at 8 a.m. and follows this agenda, https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/18/10_oct/index.asp

The Commission will be asked to adopt administrative rules to allow the salvage of roadkilled deer and elk beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The new rules are due to the passage of SB 372 by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature. Highlights include:

·        Deer and elk accidentally stuck by a vehicle may be salvaged for consumption only. Intentionally hitting a deer or elk in order to salvage it remains unlawful.


·        Anyone who salvages a roadkilled deer or elk must complete a free online permit within 24 hours of salvaging the animal and provide information including their name, contact info, where and when salvage occurred, species and gender of animal salvaged, and if they were driver that struck animal.

·        Antlers and head of all salvaged animals will need to be surrendered to an ODFW office within 5 business days of taking possession of the carcass. This rule will meet the requirements of SB 372 and will contribute to ODFW’s surveillance program for Chronic Wasting Disease.

·        The entire carcass of the animal including gut piles must be removed from the road and road right of way during the salvage.

·        In cases where a deer or elk is struck, injured and then put down to alleviate suffering, only the driver of the vehicle that struck the animal may salvage the carcass and law enforcement must be immediately notified. (This is a requirement per Oregon Revised Statute 498.016 and SB 372.)

·        Any person who salvages a deer or elk will consume the meat at their own risk. ODFW/OSP will not perform game meat inspections for any deer or elk salvaged under these rules.

·        Sale of any part of the salvaged animal is prohibited, but transfer to another person will be allowed with a written record similar to transferring game meat. 

·        The state of Oregon is not liable for any loss or damage arising from the recovery, possession, use, transport or consumption of deer or elk salvaged.

 The Commission will consider the purchase of 214 acres of property adjacent to the Klamath Wildlife Area and the 560-acre Edmunds Well property near the Summer Lake wildlife Area.

The Commission’s agenda for Oct. 12 originally included plans to adopt rules related to the destruction of forfeited firearms from wildlife law violations, but that agenda item has been delayed until a future meeting.

On Thursday, Oct. 11, The Commission will also tour several projects in the Klamath Falls Area including the Green Diamond Travel Management Area and Klamath Fish Hatchery. Members of the public can join the tour but must provide their own transportation and lunch. Meet at the Running Y Resort front lobby at 8 a.m. to join the tour. See the tour agenda at https://bit.ly/2yf9ZJ7

A public forum will be held on Friday morning at the start of the meeting. Anyone seeking to testify on issues not on the formal agenda may do so by making arrangements with the ODFW Director’s Office, at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting, by calling 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044.

OSP Wildlife Troopers’ August Newsletter Details Interesting Case

Not all game warden work is an open and shut case.

A bighorn sheep seized in late summer by Oregon wildlife troopers was later returned to the hunter after video evidence showed her first shot had in fact killed it.


The incident is detailed in the August monthly newsletter of the state police’s Fish and Wildlife Division, with a trooper out of the Lakeview office initially responding to a report that a ram had been shot by someone without a tag.

According to the reporting individual, the shooter had twice fired at and missed the wild sheep, and then a person accompanying the tagholder had fired and downed the animal.

When the trooper met the pair as they came out of the field with the bighorn, he found that the hunter had failed to validate her once-in-a-lifetime tag and cited her for it. While the other admitted to shooting at the bighorn lest it get away, they claimed they had in fact missed it.

Nonetheless, both the rifle and ram were seized by the officer.

But the case wasn’t closed quite yet.

“Hours later, a video from an unrelated hunter group was located and it showed the sheep was killed by the first shot which was from the lawful tag holder,” OSP’s newsletter states.

No word on the gun, but with the video evidence, troopers were able to return the sheep to the hunter.

While that case featured interesting twists and turns, others written up in the August report are more straight ahead.

Here are some of those cases:

A F&W Trooper received a call regarding five elk being shot by three male subjects. Troopers responded to the location. Subsequent to an interview, a male subject admitted he shot an elk for himself and an elk for his wife. Ultimately three male subjects killed five elk but only had three tags. It was unknown which male subject killed the fifth elk as they were all shooting into a herd of an estimated 100 elk. The Troopers seized two elk and a rifle as evidence. The male subject who killed the two elk was cited for Lend, Borrow or Sell Big Game Tag and Take/Possession of Antlerless Elk. The female was cited for Lend, Borrow or Sell Big Game Tag. The two other male subjects were both cited for Aiding/Counseling in a Wildlife Offense.

A F&W Trooper observed a subject angling on the North Santiam River in Linn County near a Forest Service Road. The investigation revealed that the subject had caught and retained 21 hatchery trout and had a fish on his line when he was contacted. The subject was criminally cited for Exceeding Daily Bag Limit of Fish and a fishing pole was seized. The trout were seized and donated to the Union Gospel Mission in Salem.

A F&W Trooper was working an evening shellfish patrol on Nehalem Bay when he contacted a group of subjects crabbing from the Wheeler City dock at dusk. The subjects were just leaving and had a white cooler with them. When asked to show their catch the subjects revealed 20 male Dungeness crab, 18 of which were measured and found to be undersize by at least an inch. Two subjects were cited for Take/Possession of Undersize Dungeness Crab. One subject gave the Trooper a Washington Driver’s license and a resident shellfish license. The subject was additionally cited for Falsely Applied for License or Tag.

A F&W Trooper noticed that a local resident had built a large beach out into an essential salmonid habitat stream. The Trooper contacted the landowner who admitted to using about five yards of sand to construct the beach. The case was referred to Department of State Lands for civil action and the landowner is currently working with DSL and ODFW to repair the damage he caused.

Elsewhere is a blurb that describes how troopers helped two families who experienced flat tires in the Ochocos, including loaning a portable air compressor to one man so he could safely make his way back home to Redmond and then later return the device, all on the promise of a handshake.

Great job, troopers!

OSP Looking For Info On Arrowed 6-point Bull Found Dead At Dean Creek


The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help to identify the person(s) responsible for the unlawful taking of a bull elk in Douglas County.


On the evening of August 31st, 2018, OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers responded to a report that a 6-point bull elk had been shot with an arrow and left to waste in the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, outside of Reedsport.

The investigation revealed the elk had been killed around 7:00 PM that evening, and no effort was made by the person(s) involved to harvest any of the meat from the animal.

The public is urged to call Oregon State Police Trooper Brian Koell through the Turn in Poachers (TIP) hotline at 1-800-452-7888 or 541-888-2677 ext 244.

2018 Idaho Fall Hunting Prospects ‘Good’ For Elk, Whitetails, Better For Muleys


Hunters can look forward to a good fall season in 2018, with similar elk and white-tailed deer populations as last year and likely more mule deer in many areas.

Despite a setback in 2017 following a hard winter that mostly affected mule deer, most of Idaho’s deer and elk herds and harvests have been at or near historic highs in recent years and well above long-term averages. Hunters should see similar numbers this fall.

Let’s look at some figures to back that up.

In 2017, hunters took 22,751 elk, and they have killed more than 20,000 elk annually since 2014. That’s a significant statistic because before 2014, elk harvests were well below 20,000 for seven years. (The 10-year average from 2008-17 is 18,865 elk).

The last extended streak of elk harvests above 20,000 was from 1988 to 1996, which were historic high harvests in Idaho that topped out at 28,000 in 1994.

Whitetails are on a similar trend. Hunters took 26,502 whitetails in 2017, another 26,354 in 2016 following an all-time record of 30,578 whitetails in 2015. The last four years have been the highest consecutive years on record.

But mule deer hunters have not been as fortunate. A combination of a tough winter in 2016-17 and cutbacks in antlerless tags to protect breeding age does dropped the harvest by nearly a third from 37,070 in 2016 to 25,496 last year, but hunters should expect to see a modest increase this fall.

Here’s a more detailed look.

sawtaooth_elk_cc vicschendel

Creative Commons Licence
Vic Schendel


Idaho elk hunters are having some of the best hunting of all time, and there’s no reason the current streak can’t eventually compete with all-time highs based on recent harvests and trends.

Word has gotten out that Idaho’s elk hunting is on an upswing, and part of the attraction is a  combination of readily available tags sold over the counter and healthy elk populations. Elk tag sales have increased for the last five years and exceeded 100,000 annually since 2015. Prior to 2015, tag sales had not topped 100,000 in 16 years. Nonresident tags sold out in 2017, and they are selling faster this year, and will likely sell out again.

The 2017 elk harvest ranked second-highest in the last decade with 1,242 more elk than in 2016. It also ranks sixth all-time, and it’s 30 percent above the 50-year average elk harvest.

Here’s how the 2017 elk harvest breaks down:

  • Total: 22,751
  • Overall success rate: 24.4 percent
  • Bulls: 11,650
  • Cows: 11,101
  • Elk taken during general hunts: 13,277 (18.4 success rate)
  • Elk taken during controlled hunts: 9,473 (44.6 percent success rate)

Elk populations remain strong because they’re less susceptible to winter kill than deer, so they can continue to rebuild herds from year to year. Last winter, statewide calf survival was 66 percent, and the long term average 55 to 65 percent.

While Idaho is reliving some of its glory years for elk hunting, the location of the animals has changed. During record harvests in the 1990s, Central Idaho’s backcountry and wilderness areas were major contributors. They are less so these days, but other areas have picked up the slack.

There’s been a shift in populations from the wilderness and backcountry areas toward the interface between forest lands, agriculture and rural areas.

Harvest results show this. The Panhandle is currently the top elk zone in the state, and the top 10 zones include the Weiser River, Pioneer, Boise River, McCall, Smokey/Bennett and Salmon zones, all of which have major highways running through them.

Those top-producing zones provide accessible opportunities for many hunters, but also have unique challenges because there’s often a mix of public and private lands where the elk roam.

Elk herds are doing so well in some zones, such as the Weiser River and Pioneer zones, that those herds are over objectives and Fish and Game has increased cow hunting opportunities to thin the herds.

For new elk hunters, or experienced hunters looking for a new place to hunt, Idaho’s elk populations are likely to remain healthy in the foreseeable future, so now’s a good time to learn a zone where there are abundant herds.

Idaho offers a variety of over-the-counter tags for elk hunters. Out of 28 elk hunting zones, only two are limited to only controlled hunts, although many zones have limits on the number of tags available.

Hunters should research each zone and may want to look beyond the general, any-weapon seasons to find additional opportunity. Many archery and muzzleloader hunts provide antlerless, or either-sex hunting, and also options for early and late-season hunts.

top ten elk_graph

Creative Commons Licence
Glenna Gomez, Idaho Fish and Game

Creative Commons Licence
Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

Mule deer

Mule deer hunting had also been on an upswing in recent years, but a tough winter across most of southern Idaho in 2016-17 winter dropped the population, which also contributed to a drop of 11,574 in the mule deer harvest between 2016 and 2017.

But a few things should be noted. The drop in doe harvest accounted for 22 percent of the difference between those two years, which was intentional to protect the does that will hopefully continue rebuilding the herds in coming years. Most of those protections remain in place.

Deer tag sales in 2017 fell by 7,323 tags compared with 2016. If those tags had been purchased, and those hunters matched the 2017 success rate for mule deer, it would have added another 2,123 deer to the harvest. That’s assuming they were all mule deer hunters because success rates for whitetails is significantly higher (see below for details about whitetails).

While the mule deer harvest dropped by 31 percent between 2016 and 2017, the success rate between the two years only dropped by 8 percentage points, 37 percent success in 2016 vs. 29 percent in 2017.

Here’s the breakdown of the 2017 mule deer harvest:

  • Total: 25,946
  • Overall success rate: 29 percent
  • Bucks: 20,275
  • Does: 5,221
  • Mule deer taken during general hunts: 18,588 (24.5 percent success rate)
  • Mule deer taken during controlled hunts: 6,909 (56.4 percent success rate)

Mule deer herds had been growing leading up to 2017 with five consecutive years of above-average winter fawn survival until the 2016-17 winter, which had only 30-percent fawn survival (based on radio-collared fawns) and was the second-lowest winter survival since fawn monitoring started in 1998.

Fawn survival vastly improved this year. The 2017-18 winter survival nearly doubled from the previous winter’s 30 percent survival to 57 percent last winter, which is right at the long-term average and should mean more young bucks in the herds during fall.

That’s the age group that saw a sharp drop in the harvest, accounting for 10,171 mule deer in 2016, but only 6,462 in the 2017 harvest.

Mule deer fawn survival rates last winter were also unusually uniform in the seven monitoring areas spread across the state with the lowest coming in at 45 percent and the highest at 66 percent.

Returning to an average fawn survival rate could easily bump the 2018 harvest by several thousand young bucks, however, there will still be fewer 2.5-year old bucks, many of which perished in the 2016-17 winter or were taken by hunters in 2017.

The Southeast Region and the McCall/Weiser areas were hardest hit during the severe 2016-17 winter, while other areas had closer-to-normal fawn survival, but still below average. Areas that weren’t hit as hard are likely to recover more quickly.


Creative Commons Licence
Glenna Gomez, Idaho Fish and Game
whitetail buck

Creative Commons Licence
Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

White-tailed deer

Whitetails have long-been a favorite quarry for hunters in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions, where they account for the vast majority of the harvest. But whitetails have also taken on statewide significance in recent years because their harvest has increased and closely matched mule deer, which has traditionally far outnumbered whitetails in the harvest.

Part of the reason for the shift is stable and abundant whitetail herds, lots of general season hunting opportunities that include long seasons and liberal regulations with either-sex hunting. Those factors also contribute to a higher success rate than mule deer.

Let’s breakdown the 2017 whitetail harvest:

  • Total: 26,502
  • Success rate: 43.9 percent
  • Bucks: 15,895
  • Does: 10,607
  • Bucks five points or larger (on one antler): 3,384
  • General season harvest: 23,312 (42.7 percent success rate)
  • Controlled hunt harvest: 3,189 (54.6 percent success rate)

Unlike mule deer, Fish and Game does not radio collar whitetail fawns and does each winter and monitor their survival, or do other annual population surveys for whitetails. Biologists rely on other data to judge the health of the population, including harvest data.

Harvest has been over 26,000 for the last four years, and the number of five-points in the harvest has been consistent since 2007.

Whitetail hunting is meeting nearly all of the department’s objectives for the number of hunters, hunter days, buck harvest, and percentage of five points. The only exceptions are the Selway/Middle Fork areas are below objectives for hunt numbers and days, and southern Idaho is below objective for five-points, but southern Idaho is not considered a major focus for whitetail hunters.

Idaho has not seen any significant outbreaks of whitetail diseases in recent years, and now outbreaks have been detected this year.

All signs point to another good year for whitetail hunters with lots of opportunity and the chance to get a bigger buck for those who put in the time and effort.

Whitetail hunters should be aware of rule changes in Unit 10A in 2018, which includes a shortened season (Oct. 10 through Nov. 20), and hunters can not use a second deer tag in that unit.


Creative Commons Licence
Glenna Gomez, Idaho Fish and Game


To learn more about harvest statistics, places to hunt, rules and more information, see the Hunt Planner.


Wild, Scenic And Fishy

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Congressional act that now protects and enhances 3,000 miles of salmon-, steelhead- and trout-bearing rivers in the Northwest.

By Andy Walgamott

While fishing along the banks of Northwest rivers over the years, I’ve always kept an eye out for heart-shaped rocks, but I never found a good one till this past April.


I was on the Sauk, hoping to hook wild winter steelhead after federal overseers finally approved a state season, the first time the Washington Cascades river had been open in spring since 2009. It was a glorious day, and I couldn’t have been happier to be back on the water at that time of year.

John Day River, Central Oregon; 248.6 miles of designated wild, scenic and recreational river. Chinook, steelhead, redband rainbow trout, bull trout, lamprey, smallmouth bass. (BOB WICK, BLM)

As I tried my luck below a riffle, two drift boaters worked a slot above it, and when they pulled their plugs in and headed downstream, I bushwhacked my way upstream to the stretch to hit it with my jigs and spoons.

Lower Klickitat River, Washington; 10.8 miles designated as recreational river. Spring, summer, fall Chinook, coho, summer and winter steelhead, rainbow trout, lamprey. (JASON BROOKS)

That’s when I stumbled onto the big, smooth granite heart. Pegging its base with cobbles, I propped it up on a boulder for a photograph next to one of my favorite rivers.

Grande Ronde River, Oregon; 43.8 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Spring Chinook, coho, summer steelhead, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass. (CASEY CRUM)

THE SAUK’S BRAWNY wild winters eluded me that day, but it was still great to be on several of the 12,754 miles of streams that comprise our National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, created by Congress way back in 1968 and signed into law by President Johnson.

North Umpqua River, Oregon; 33.8 miles designated as recreational river. Spring Chinook, summer steelhead, rainbow trout. (BOB WICK, BLM)

Though coming out of an era of increased environmental concerns – the Clean Air and Wilderness Acts preceded it and it was followed by the Clean Water, Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts – it takes a notably less heavy-handed approach in its implementation.

Bruneau River, Idaho; 39.3 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Redband rainbow trout. (BOB WICK, BLM)

The act aims to “(protect) and (enhance) the values that caused [rivers like the Sauk] to be designated” through the “voluntary stewardship by landowners and river users and through regulation and programs of federal, state, local, or tribal governments,” according to Rivers.gov. “It does not prohibit development or give the federal government control over private property.”

Bruneau River, Idaho; 39.3 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Redband rainbow trout. (RANDY KING)

There are wild, scenic and recreational rivers in 40 states, and some of the fishiest in the Northwest are included.

Lochsa River, Idaho; 90-plus miles designated as recreational river. Spring Chinook, summer steelhead, bull, cutthroat and rainbow trout, mountain whitefish. (PAUL ISHII)

In Oregon, there’s all or portions of the Chetco, Crooked and its North Fork, Deschutes, Elk, Grande Ronde, Illinois, Imnaha, John Day, Klamath, McKenzie, Metolius, North Umpqua, Owyhee, Rogue, Smith, Snake and Wenaha, among many, many more.

Crooked River, Oregon; 17.8 miles designated as recreational river. Redband rainbow trout, mountain whitefish. (BOB WICK, BLM)

In fact, Oregon just might have the highest percentage of rivers of any state: 2 percent, 1,916.7 miles, of the Beaver State’s 110,994 river miles are wild and scenic.

Rogue River, Oregon; 84.5 miles designated as wild, scenic and recreational river. Spring and fall Chinook, coho, summer and winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat and rainbow trout, lamprey. (THOMAS O’KEEFE, RIVERS.GOV)

In Idaho, 891 miles, including much of the Salmon and its Middle Fork, the Middle Fork Clearwater, upper St. Joe and Owyhee, and Bruneau are listed.

Owyhee River, Oregon; 120 miles designated as wild in Oregon (continues in Idaho). Redband rainbow trout. THOMAS O’KEEFE, RIVERS.GOV)

In sharp contrast, only 197 stream miles in Washington have been designated – unusual when you consider that it’s the wettest state in the West.

Skagit River, Washington; 158.5 miles of designated scenic and recreational rivers. Spring, summer and fall Chinook, coho, pink salmon, winter steelhead, bull, rainbow and sea-run cutthroat trout. (CHASE GUNNELL)

Where listed rivers occur throughout most of Oregon, the Evergreen State’s are limited to the Cascades and include the upper and lower ends of the White Salmon, the lower 11 miles of the Klickitat, and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and its tributary, the Pratt.

BUT AT THE northern end of the mountain range is one of Washington’s best watersheds.

I don’t know how many times state district fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull has answered my question about why the Skagit system is so productive for steelhead, Chinook, bull trout and other stocks by pointing to its headwaters.

North Cascades National Park; the Ross Lake National Recreation Area; the Glacier Peak, Henry M. Jackson and Noisy-Diobsud Wildernesses; the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Out of all that protected federal land flows the wild and scenic Sauk, Suiattle, Skagit and Cascade Rivers and Illabot Creek.

It took many more questions of Barkdull to begin to understand that what looks like a mess – all the logjams, braids and big sunbaked cobble bars on the Sauk – is actually a good thing for fish.

They show a river largely unshackled by riprap and dikes, and allowed to meander as it has since for eons, a sign of a healthy river.

That not many people, farms and infrastructure line its banks make that more possible here, but I’d love it if in another 50 years, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act turns 100, more than just one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s streams are part of the system.

Mollala River, Oregon; 23 miles proposed as wild and scenic river. Spring Chinook, coho, winter steelhead, cutthroat and rainbow trout, lamprey. (BOB WICK, BLM)

Encounter With A Cougar

An Eastern Oregon bowhunter comes face to face with a lion during last year’s elk season.

By Dan Lyons

There is no way Dad is ever going to find me. If he can even make it up the steep, rugged ridge, it would surely take a host of others to find me, or my body. I hate that he will have a helpless feeling when I don’t respond to him hailing me on my handheld radio. He will be scared when I don’t show up at the truck and don’t come out of the woods.

My kids and my wife – he will have to call them and tell them I didn’t show up. They will be devastated. My friends, and hunting buddies too. They would all feel the pain that always accompanies loss and tragedy. So here I am, deciding at this instant between fight or flight, and having no idea of the outcome of either.


I’VE HUNTED AND been very passionate about it since I was 12. I love everything about hunting, though truth be known, I am not very good at it. I have killed a handful of decent mule deer bucks, a couple whitetail bucks and have a raghorn bull to my credit. Besides a muley that I paid big bucks for through an outfitter in Montana I have had very average success here in the great state of Oregon. Maybe my lack of success is due to the fact that I like the cold beer, the campfire, the relationships with my hunting buddies and the stories as much as I like the actual hunting.

Because it’s hard as hell to draw a good deer or elk tag in my state without waiting five years between opportunities, I figured it was time to try archery hunting. Most units in Oregon don’t require a draw for a bow tag, so you can buy both a deer and an elk tag over the counter. This is probably due to the fact that killing an animal with a bow and arrow is flat out hard. Despite the texts I receive each fall from smiling hunters holding up their bulls, the many stories I hear, and the videos that make it all look easy, it seems the cards are stacked against us trying to outsmart and outduel a cagey bull with a bow. Still, with no rifle tags on the horizon I decided to go for it and give archery hunting a try.

With no rifle tags on the horizon I decided to go for it and give archery hunting a try.

I basically broke the internet doing my research. I went into discussion forums, watched every YouTube video ever made and bought every Primos and Eastman’s hunting DVD in existence. I bought some calls, sprayed some elk piss on my boots, and was ready to rock.

My father has archery hunted for 25 years and although he’s come close many times, he has never been able to close the deal on a bull. But for sure, even at 73 he was fired up to get out there with me. He is the single best person I know and any time spent with him is a good time. Typically, I rifle hunt with six of my lifelong friends, so this trip had a different feel from the beginning, and I liked it. The plan was to leave Portland on Wednesday at noon, get over there, and hunt Thursday through Sunday and then get back to work and the family. A rancher friend rents a bunkhouse near our hunting area, so we hit the easy button and spent the $100 per night to not have to deal with a camp.

IT ALWAYS TICKS me off that most hunting articles never tell you where the author was, so I will tell you. We were hunting in Eastern Oregon, north of the town of John Day at the northern end of the Northside Unit and just south of the Middle Fork of the John Day River. This all went down on Sept. 15, 2017.

Thursday started and ended with results that I’ve become accustomed to. I walked for what felt like 10 miles over large mountains, through beautiful draws, and across what appeared to be perfect elk country, but besides a few does and fawns, we drove back to the ranch without seeing or hearing a single elk. I thought this time of year they bugled like crazy and all you had to do was locate, stalk, and get ’er done. I had, and have much to learn. A touch of whiskey, some great conversation and an early bedtime closed down Thursday and we were stoked to try a new area in the morning that I just knew, for sure, would hold some elk.

There was frost on Friday and it was flat out cold. After a long hot summer, it felt like the first touch of fall. My research had told me that when the temperature starts dropping, these cold mornings really fire the bulls up, so I was eager to get into the woods. They were going to be bugling, fighting, and chasing cows, making it way too easy for us. I was where I wanted to be, at the time I wanted to be there.

A slow, steady, and quiet hunt coupled with a few perfectly executed cow calls on my Hoochie Mama resulted in zero elk seen and zero elk heard, and from what I could tell, there had never been an elk in this area, ever. The only excitement came when a grouse flushed up 5 feet from me, which resulted in only a minor heart attack. Otherwise, it was back to the truck to regroup for an afternoon hunt.

Although still in decent shape, Dad is perfectly satisfied driving the truck around as the pick-up man, maybe walking up the draw and patiently waiting for his opportunity, and he is not beyond a midday nap. After a lifetime of hunting and experience, his passion for killing a bull has waned, but his passion for being out there and being with his son are still on point.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON BROUGHT some wind and some smoke began settling in the valley from a host of wildfires across the state. After seeing a few other hunters in the area, I figured it was time to go to my secret spot, one I was confident no other hunter possessed the required grit needed to get there. Although a difficult hunt that required a straight-up assault of a mountain, the top offered a thicket that I had actually seen elk in before. Of course, that was during deer season, but there had been a good bull in that group, so I figured this mountaintop thicket was what they were calling home. It was on.

I loaded my fanny pack and lined Dad out as to where I would be coming out. I told him I would check in on the radio when I got up there and that it would take three to four hours before I was out. He asked if I wanted to take the .380 pistol to scare off bears and cougars and, because I am a genius, I said no. “I don’t want that extra weight,” I thought.

The mountain was no match for me as my excitement and adrenaline got me to the top. I sat for about 15 minutes, sipped some water, and got myself rested and calm to still-hunt this perfect piece of country and stake my claim on a 330-inch-class bull with a whale tail, huge eye guards and massive antlers that reached to the sky. My cow call was going to be too much for him to resist and I imagined him running in and offering me a perfect broadside shot at 20 yards. In my new camo, although way too small for me, I blended into the landscape better even than the trees and bushes. My dreams were about to come true.

When the temperature starts dropping, these cold mornings really fire the bulls up, so I was eager to get into the woods.

It was hot and hard to be quiet. At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, I don’t think I was exactly walking without sound, but I entered the thicket and tiptoed toward my destiny. The trees swayed with the wind now and there was just enough smoke to slightly alter the air and visibility. I snuck into some windfalls. A few game trails crisscrossed the area and I could see a good 30 yards into this elky-looking patch of earth – a perfect spot to sit, work my cow call, and wait. It was playing out exactly as it had in my mind a million times. I backed into a bush, sat down, and blended in perfectly. I nocked an arrow and let the cow call sing its song and bring in my bull. On all the videos I’d watched, the bulls just came rolling in to the hunter, all the while signalling their excitement with loud shrieks of intent.

Nothing. No retorts to my cow call, no snapping of limbs from an approaching bull, no bugles. Nothing but the wind and the eerie calm of this elkless thicket. Thirty minutes was enough, or at least all that I could handle, so I moved my eyes right and carefully scanned my view to see if I could catch a bull sneaking in before I moved on. I scanned center, down in front of me, and slowly scanned left. This is when it all got very real, and it got real quick.

TO MY DIRECT left on the same trail I had walked up and at what I estimate to be 25 to 30 feet sat a cougar, or mountain lion. Whatever you choose to call it, I noticed this one was an adult, it was large, and it scared the absolute sh*t out of me. I’d seen prints, once, but never in my 44 years had I seen a cougar, and now one was standing a pounce away. I was in his domain and from the first instant I knew that he was in control.

Yet for the time being it had no idea I was there. It was sitting like a Labrador with his butt on the ground and both front feet planted firm out in front of him. He was broadside to me and had his eyes fixed up the draw. He no doubt smelled me, or had heard my incredible cow calling skills, or maybe he was out for an afternoon stroll, but either way he was right there and for a few seconds I was frozen. If he turned and continued on his trail, he would run directly into me. Time to make a choice. Only a decent-sized windfall separated us.

With a cougar tag in my wallet I drew my bow back, but because I was sitting, I couldn’t get high enough over the log or one of its large branches that separated me and Mr. Cougar. No shot. It was time to stand and see how this tale would unfold. My eyes didn’t leave the cat as I started to stand. I believed that when I stood he would see me and hightail it out of there and go back to being a ghost.

This is not what he did.

I stood, he squared me up and dropped down, with his belly hugging the ground and his chin maybe an inch off the ground. His eyes were green and they stared right at me. Besides his oddly twitching tail he was perfectly still. To me, he was ready to do what cougars do, which is pounce, grab, bite, rip and kill. It was a good old-fashioned stare-off for 10 seconds and I made the decision that it was time for me to take action versus wait and let him make the first move, which, in my mind meant him ripping my jugular vein out and dragging me to his lair. He was not leaving, he was not scared, and with one pounce I would be dealing with 150 pounds of asskicker and I didn’t see that ending well for me.

I drew my bow back and held the 20-yard pin below his chin. Without a 10-yard pin I had to guess more than I would have liked and due to a slight angle down to him, my only shot was his face or neck. While I want to believe I was holding steady I doubt that was the case. When I squeezed my release, the arrow left the bow and immediately the cat raised his body very slightly. He raised his right front paw and the arrow snuck under his right foot, under his body and skipped safely past his back legs with no contact. A clean miss.

Now I was in trouble.

He took three stealthy steps toward me, his chin still an inch off the ground. While his tail twitched maniacally, I recall very clearly that his body flat out did not move. Rather, this thing floated up the trail toward me, stealthy, quiet, and in control. He was ready to go and he appeared to me ready to kill.

I figured this mountaintop thicket was what they were calling home. It was on.

He took those three steps and stopped. He tucked his ears back, showed me his teeth and hissed like a house cat. He was fierce. It’s important to note that while I am calling him a he, I have no earthly clue if he was a he or a she. Either way, for the first time ever in my life I was scared. I assessed the situation quickly. I was 8 feet away from this son of a gun, holding a bow with no arrow, and absolutely nothing else to fend off this apex critter. With my options limited, I accepted the fact that I was going to, simply put, fist fight a cougar. The odds weren’t good, to say the least.

If I was going down, I was going down fighting, so I yanked an arrow from the quiver and held it in my hand. If he pounced, I could stab the arrow into him and then scream, kick, bite, punch, spit – whatever I could to make him not end me.

He held his ground, which bought me some time. I waved my arms. I yelled, “Get out of here!” three times. He didn’t twitch or move an inch. I pulled my mesh camo mask down from my face so he could see my eyes. He took another slight step toward me. As he showed me his teeth, I remember thinking, “I wonder what he last ate with those things?”

I nocked the arrow and was prepared to pull it back and get one into him on his advance. I just didn’t want to shoot again at this close range because if he pulled his Matrix trick again and dodged my arrow a second time, I felt he would for sure have no choice but to attack. I waited, and I stared back at him, ready for his pounce, and ready for a fight.

I DECIDED TO take a small step backwards. He returned the favor by taking one stealthy step toward me. I took another step back and he obliged again. I knew he was keeping me within a one-pounce distance. I took a third and arrived at a large pine tree. I stepped behind it quickly and peeked around it like you might when playing hide-and-go-seek and he remained in that position, ready to go. I got behind the tree to where he couldn’t see me and hoped like hell he would forget about me. I waited and carefully peered around the tree again. Still there.

I got behind the tree at an angle that he couldn’t see me, then backed up to try to create some space. I picked up a good 10 yards and then looked back toward my new friend. Still there, but now he was standing and no longer in that godforsaken horrible killer pouncing position. I continued to back up and was thankful I could create some space between us.

The angle I’d chosen didn’t allow him to see me, so I decided my time to fight was over and it was time for flight. I put my arrow back in the quiver, turned the other direction, and ran as fast as I possibly could up the trail. I had no idea at the time that the absolute last thing you do when you see a cougar is run. I jumped logs and sprinted uphill, and kept looking over my shoulder, sure he was chasing me. I got a decent distance away and stopped, turned around and again prepared to fight. Back down the trail the cougar was still there, staring at me, standing calmly. I imagine he was laughing at me; my heart was racing at 787 beats per minute, but I could tell his was not. I renocked an arrow. He flicked his huge tail twice, turned to his left and bounded down the canyon, away from me and into the abyss of my thicket. I noticed that his first bound was much longer than the distance that had separated us just moments earlier.

As he showed me his teeth, I remember thinking, “I wonder what he last ate with those things?”

With adrenaline still pouring through me I regrouped and again ran as fast as I could up the trail to the top of the mountain, where it opened up. I might have set a land speed record while doing so, but I remember clearly that I was not tired. My lungs did not burn. I was focused and I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Adrenaline had taken over and offered me some juice I had surely never felt before. I now believe the stories of mothers lifting cars to save their children. There is within us a superhuman element that, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t ever need to experience again.

ONCE I CALMED down and came off the adrenaline rush, I was shaking very badly. I don’t know if I was in shock, or just scared out of my mind, but I remember having to kind of wrap my arms around myself to stop the shaking. I gathered myself and called Dad on the radio.

“How about it, Dad, you down there?”

“Hey Dannyboy! You bet, just having a cold beer, and I found some cool rocks out for a walk.”

“Awesome, Dad, I will be down there in about 20.”

“Sounds good, son, I will have a cold beer waiting for you”

“Copy that, see you in a few”

As I stepped out of the woods he immediately asked, “What the hell happened to you?”

I guess my skin coloring was still somewhere back in my thicket.

We cracked a cold one and sat on the tailgate and I told him every detail of my story. In a way that only a father can, he made me feel comfortable, safe, and he calmed me down without even really trying. Since that day we have talked about it a few times and I can tell it bothered him. I just cannot imagine the pain it would have caused him if that son of a gun had attacked me. I am thankful for Dad every day and thankful for what he has taught me about hunting, and life.

I had no idea at the time that the absolute last thing you do when you see a cougar is run.

When I got home I sat my family down and told the story. My 11- and 9-year-olds were on the edge of their seat. It upset my daughter and my son is still pissed that I missed the one shot I had at the cougar. My wife was also scared, and appropriately did find some humor in it.

A quick google search told me that there has never been a reported cougar attack of a human in Oregon. The article said if you see one in the wild, you should look big, show it your eyes, and yell at it. It went on to say that no matter what, never run. Oops.

In the end it was an experience I guess I am thankful for. It is a hell of a story, one I will tell forever, and I did feel something I have never felt before. Was that cougar really going to attack me? I thought so, but maybe I just surprised him the same way he surprised me. The truth of the matter is, I will hunt that thicket again and I can’t wait to get back in there. When I do, I can promise you just a few things. First and foremost, I will be carrying my 7mm Mag and not a damn bow and arrow, and second, if I do get lucky enough to see a cougar again, I won’t run! NS

Orcas Island Elk On The Move

Those two bull elk we reported on Orcas Island yesterday?

Yeah, they’re probably over on Cypress or Sinclair or Lopez or Blakely or Obstruction or Lummi or Vendovi or Guemes or Decatur Island by now.


After Thursday morning’s sighting on Orcas near the golf course between the ferry dock and village of Eastsound, around 10 a.m. today the duo were spotted about 5 air miles to the southeast and across East Sound, near Obstruction Pass by resident Uncle John Willis.

“Well, this morning I planned on going to town, but chose not to do that. I looked out my window at my sister’s house and here are two bull elk eating leaves off of a filbert tree in front of her house,” he told us.

“They were two good, healthy-looking bulls. I was not quite ready to see two elk this morning,” Willis added.

“To see a couple of bull elk was beyond my wildest expectations,” the longtime Orcas Island resident said.

Still, through the island grapevine he’d heard of yesterday’s sightings.

Willis said his first thought was, “I need to find a camera or they’ll all think I’m crazy.”

So he and a friend with a camera went looking for them on the property.

He wasn’t quite sure how they had arrived at the family farm near Deer Point.

“This whole thing is so crazy. To get here they  must have swam. They couldn’t get a reservation on the ferry, I don’t think,” Willis said

Indeed, it is likely that the elk jumped in the water, but from where is a darn good question.

Two bulls were spotted on Salt Spring Island, on the Vancouver Island side of the San Juans, earlier this spring, but an elk on Whidbey Island swam over from the Skagit Valley a couple years ago too.


Before this, Willis says the biggest wildlife event on Orcas might have been the bear that swam over last year.

The bruin was spotted on Obstruction Pass Road at the exact same spot as the elk was photographed above.

“Anyway, it’s been a crazy day for me,” Willis added.


Elk Photographed On Orcas Island

UPDATE: 1:10 P.M., JUNE 29, 2018: The bulls were spotted around 10 this morning, 5 miles to the southeast outside Olga.

First an elk turned up on Whidbey Island and now it sounds like two more have swam across to Orcas Island.

A pair of bulls were spotted this morning in a resident’s yard near the golf course between Orcas and Eastsound.

“Yep, that’s an elk,” confirmed WDFW wildlife biologist Ruth Milner in La Conner.


“They were in our yard, the dog went nuts at 5:20 a.m. when he saw them,” resident Kyle Freeman told The Islands’ Sounder.

“Never heard of elk on Orcas,” the Orcas Island Golf Course posted on Facebook.

Maybe not, but animals swimming from the mainland out to the dozens of islands throughout the Salish Sea is not unheard of.

“We had a bear on Orcas last year, a cougar on Vashon, the most beautiful bull elk you’ve ever seen on Whidbey,” notes Milner.

It’s possible that the Orcas duo ended up there for reasons similar to how the Oak Harbor-area bull took up residence there.

“The Whidbey elk was seen down in the (Skagit) valley with a band of cows and we think someone booted him and he took off west instead of east, and that’s probably what happened here,” Milner says.

It’s possible that the duo is the same pair that turned up on the southeast end of British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island, to the northwest of Orcas, in early April.

The history of wapiti on islands in Washington’s sheltered inland sea is “pretty vague,” Milner says, but before European settlement, some animals probably occurred on them.

Where those bulls may have been driven away by more dominant ones, she says that a researcher found rutty island blacktail bucks swimming back and forth through the archipelago in search of does.

“Collared bucks from Blakely leave the island and then come back,” she says.

“They do things we wouldn’t,” Milner notes.

While deer hunting in the islands is open, with second tags available for many, elk are off limits as there are no seasons on Orcas, Whidbey or elsewhere.

As for the Orcas bulls, it sounds like they may be happy where they’re at, at least for the moment.

“They did not appear to be in a hurry to head in any direction,” Freeman told the Sounder. “When I went outside they walked slowly into the tall grass and disappeared into the woods.”